Update: Tony Bennett set to resign in FL. That has implications for Common Core and specifically PARCC as well (see the new Insider survey below). It also makes you wonder what else is out there because what’s public to date about this IN episode, while a problem, doesn’t seem to rise to this.
The invaluable Anne Hyslop has an important look at the Indiana school grading episode today. It’s a must -read. As I wrote yesterday, I think this episode is overblown but there are two not-insignifcant issues here – the lack of transparency that is a liability now, and that it appears the focus was on getting this particular school to a grade rather than just fixing a flaw with the grading system. Anne’s post sheds some light on the latter.
Two pieces of context that haven’t gotten a lot of attention, one Indiana-specific, one more general. In Indiana the charter schools were not at all happy with this grading system because they feared that the alluring simplicity of letter grades would inadvertently penalize schools with non-traditional approaches. Indianapolis has a healthy charter sector and some really interesting schools and within the charter sector there are many who believe that the contract between the school and the authorizer should have supremacy as an accountability tool. There was a great deal of tension between Bennett and the charters over all this and I suspect that part of the motivation to address this problem was that if the charters completely balked at the new system it would hurt its validity. “This was largely about the lack of credibility an A-F system would have if Christel’s school – which may be the best charter in the state – got a C” one very connected Democrat in Indiana told me yesterday.
More generally, I think A-F systems are fine, it’s hard to argue that Florida’s system and the consequences it created didn’t drive some improvement there. But like any system they have their problems, too, which we’ll see as this idea is replicated all over the place. First, the measures matter and not all A-F systems are created equally. It’s easy to have measures that either obscure low-performance or exacerbate it and they are prone to the same political problems earlier generations of accountability systems were. That’s because, second, with the simplicity of A-F you are forced to create some delineations that don’t fit cleanly onto the different kinds of schools and situations in the education sector – traditional public and charter. This isn’t a new problem, it’s one that vexes accountability systems because the alternative – really complicated – compromises transparency and creates a quilt of rules that, as we saw over the last decade, people balk at as well.
Voucher supporters must be chuckling at all this because they have an answer here…just let the market do it.